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Authoritarianism And Truth In Trump’s America: A Talk With Sarah Kendzior

Editor's note: This piece was originally published on Aug. 3, 2018.

Sarah Kendzior is the kind of journalist people love to hate. She is relentless in her pursuit of the truth, she does not mince words, and she is unafraid of powerful people. She is not in this business to make friends and she’s had the death threats to prove it.

Kendzior is also something of a seer — her essays written for the Al Jazeera English Channel in 2012 and 2013 predicted the rise of Donald Trump and the outcome of the 2016 election before anyone else in the media was taking the campaign seriously.

Those essays have been collected into a book called The View From Flyover Country. The book, which takes no prisoners, is now a — bestseller, but it was originally self-published because no traditional publisher wanted it.

The book critiques labor exploitation, race relations, media bias and other aspects of America’s post-employment economy that gave rise to President Trump.

She believes the United States’ refusal to deal with the repercussions of the 2008 recession “has come back to haunt us big time.”

Kendzior notes that the cost of health care, child care, child birth and other things that used to be “part of the package of life” have become luxuries.

“When you turn every day necessities into luxuries and you don’t increase wages or any kind of economic ladder upwards, you’re in for a real crisis,” Kendzior says.

When it comes to politics and the seemingly endless stream of news, she knows it can be difficult to make sense of it all. “So, I’m thinking: If this is literally my job, and I get paid for this and I’m struggling, how the hell are normal people who work a 9 to 5 … how are they making sense of this? I don’t know. Literacy skills take time.”

Credit Boswell Book Company
Lake Effect's Bonnie North and Sarah Kendzior chat in front of an audience at Boswell Book Company in Milwaukee.

She suggests reading more, especially history, because then you’ll start to see similarities and have a better understanding of what’s at stake.

Kendzior, who is as critical of the profession she practices as she is of anyone else, encourages other journalists to not be afraid to say it’s upsetting when they see something terrible.

“You gotta tell the truth. It’s often an unpopular thing to do. It’s often very unpleasant to do when you’re talking about terrible things happening to people, but it’s necessary.”

Listen to more of Sarah Kendzior's interview with Lake Effect's Bonnie North, which took place in front of a packed audience at Boswell Book Company.

Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.
Lauren Sigfusson
Lauren became WUWM's digital producer in July 2018.